The Class 4A state volleyball championship trophy will call Bellarmine Prep home for at least one more year.
Sparked by the dominating play of senior Courtney Schwan, the undefeated Lions made it back-to-back titles with a nail-biting five-set victory over a game Curtis squad in Saturday’s championship finals at Saint Martin’s University in Lacey.
The sets were 25-22, 18-25, 25-17, 18-25, 15-9 as the Lions were forced into a fifth set for the first time this season.
“We have a quote around here, and that’s take the fifth (set), but we haven’t gone a fifth set all season so I really didn’t know what to expect,” Bellarmine coach Jody DeGroot said. “They certainly responded.”
Bellarmine (22-0) joins Ingraham (1973-74), Kent-Meridian (1978-79), Renton (1980-82), Shadle Park (1984-85), Kentlake (2000-02) and Mead (2003-07) as the only 4A programs to post consecutive state titles.
Schwan, who was already committed to the University of Washington and is regarded as one of the nation’s top 20 players, was the engine for the Lions in the title match, registering 26 kills. Bellarmine also received huge contributions from Megan Jacobsen, Emilie Newberry, Claire Martin and Reghan Pukis in putting away the Vikings.
“Courtney was the difference,” Curtis coach Michael Miller said. “She was a woman amongst girls tonight.”
Curtis senior Janell Sparks matched Schwan swing-for-swing throughout, finishing with a match-high 28 kills.
“It was everyone tonight,” DeGroot said. “From our No. 1 down to our No. 13. We got huge contributions from everyone. And Courtney caught fire when we needed her.”
The teams traded points to start the first set with Curtis taking a 13-11 lead on Camryn Buell’s ace.
A kill and a block from Newberry combined with a kill from Pukis and an ace from Schwan reclaimed the lead for the Lions at 20-16.
The Vikings didn’t go away, however, stringing together three consecutive points, highlighted by Buell’s second ace of the set, to knot things up at 22.
Bellarmine’s offense simply went through Schwan down the stretch as the senior pounded back-to-back kills, giving her six for the set, before Newberry’s third block ended the first game, 25-22.
Curtis, which lost in three sets to Bellarmine at the West Central District tournament, came out swinging in the second set with Sparks’ second kill doubling up the Lions at 10-5.
A run of Jessica Woodruff kills and a Sparks block of a Schwan attack pushed the Vikings’ lead to 19-13.
Bellarmine cut the deficit to 19-16, but a barrage of Sparks kills — the senior finished with eight for the set — was too much for the Lions to overcome as they dropped the second set, 25-18. It marked the first set at the state tournament and just the third set all season Bellarmine had lost.
Schwan continued to attack at a high clip and the Lions showcased their depth in the third set — getting six kills from sophomore Jacobsen — before putting away the set, 25-17.
Sparks and Schwan took turns loosening the floorboards on the other side of the court in the fourth set — Sparks had nine kills and Schwan had seven — but it was Sparks’ final kill that gave the Vikings the 25-18 win, sending the match into the fifth and final set.
Bellarmine led 5-1 and 11-6 in the fifth set, getting a pair of kills from Newberry and a big block from Martin.
Martin followed up a Schwan kill with one of her own before another Newberry block ended the match, giving the Lions their second title.
“(Bellarmine’s) an awesome team. They’re as good as a lot of (NCAA) Division III college teams, and we were right there,” Miller said. “I couldn’t be prouder of how we played tonight. We just came up a little short against an excellent team in a fifth set.”
Bellarmine swept Emerald Ridge (25-19, 25-15, 25-18) in the semifinals to advance to the state championship match, giving the Lions three-set wins in each of their first three state playoff matches.
Curtis, which also finished second at the 2009 state tournament, advanced to the finals by besting Newport (Bellevue), 3-1 (25-20, 16-25, 25-13, 26-24).
In the third-place match, Emerald Ridge triumphed over Newport, 3-1. The Jaguars equaled their best finish in school history by putting away the Knights in four sets (25-12, 25-22, 26-28, 25-21).
The young Emerald Ridge team, which features just two seniors in Sierra Holloway and Tristyn Smith, completed the season with a record of 20-2 with both defeats coming to Bellarmine.
The Jaguars also finished third at the 2005 state tournament.
Kentwood prevailed over Camas, 3-2, to take fifth place. Kentwood (19-3) trailed 13-11 in the deciding set before getting kills from Lauren Hackett and Mele Halahuni and an ace from Hackett to reclaim the advantage at 14-13.
A Sarah Toeaina kill followed by a Camas hitting error ended the match.
The sets were 25-22, 25-19, 19-25, 23-25, 16-14.
It marked the fifth time in the past six seasons Camas (18-5) has taken home a state trophy.
Skyline swept Bothell and wrapped up the seventh-place trophy with a three-set victory (25-16, 25-14, 25-20).